Make paddleboarding a group activity with this large touring inflatable
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Justin Park / TripSavvy
Slow to maneuver
Hard to transport
The Bluefin Cruise Carbon 15’ Paddleboard is a large, high-end inflatable stand-up paddleboard that delivers bigtime space and rigidity.
Bluefin is a family-owned United Kingdom-based company that specializes in paddleboards. To see if this higher-end inflatable delivered performance equal to the price, I tested the Bluefin Cruise Carbon with friends on lakes high in the Rocky Mountains. We assessed its performance over several weeks, evaluating factors such as durability, glide, stability, and maneuverability as well as the overall package and value.
The large size of our 15-foot Bluefin Cruise Carbon paddleboard meant we were faced with putting a high volume of air into the board to reach the 12-15 PSI recommended for proper floatation. Two distinct chambers for inflating make this board unique. Two distinct chambers—one in the center of the board and the other around the outside like a long donut—make this a unique board. The company claims this adds to rigidity. If nothing else, you get a safety backup chamber in case one punctures.
The board takes a few minutes to fully pump, but thankfully it comes with one of the nicest included floor pumps I’ve ever used. The "Triple Action" pump has three modes: two modes that pump as you pull the handle up and as you push it down plus a mode (best for those last few PSI) where air only goes out when pushing the handle down. The manual doesn’t explain, but I assume the difference between the bi-directional modes is that one uses one chamber while the other uses both.
The actual pumping was fairly straightforward once we experimented with the different modes. We did find it challenging to keep the pump hose engaged and found ourselves wishing it locked in place somehow.
At a 15-foot length, we didn’t expect a particularly nimble board and it can definitely feel sluggish, especially if you’re paddling solo.
Still, it probably only took us ten minutes to fully inflate the board on our first try, which isn’t bad for one of this volume. It only needs to inflate to the 12-15 PSI range but is capable of going up to 28 PSI if you want to push it for extra rigidity. We found 12-15 PSI to be plenty for most situations, but I might push that closer to 20 if I was planning to have two larger people on it.
One thing to note about the Bluefin Carbon Cruise is at 15 feet, you’re most likely going to be inflating and deflating it with each use. It’s simply too large to haul inflated on most cars and trucks unless you have a roof rack system or are okay with most of the board hanging out the back of a truck bed. While the inflation wasn’t painful or too time-consuming, the deflation actually took a bit of time because of some finagling to get all the air out and roll it back up tight enough to fit inside the carrying backpack.
Because of its size, this is also a very heavy board. Bluefin doesn’t list an official weight, but our pack with accessories weighed over 50 pounds, making it unrealistic to wear as a backpack. Luckily the carry pack has built-in wheels for rolling, though you’ll need fairly smooth terrain.
One thing that stands out about the Carbon Cruise is its serious build. The company spells out and emphasizes the importance of its materials and construction from the drop stitching methods, to the carbon fibers woven into it, and the reinforcements such as a heat-welded rail to increase both stiffness and durability along the edge of the board.
For an inflatable board of this size, stiffness is key to maintaining performance while supporting larger weight loads. Thankfully, there are lots of tie-downs and two bungee strap zones in front and back.
The board takes a few minutes to fully pump, but thankfully the board comes with one of the nicest included floor pumps I’ve ever used.
There are some other interesting design features, such as the ability to convert to a two-person sit-on-top kayak by adding the included seats. While we tested this feature and found it functional enough, it’s not something we’d personally value. But if you are looking for a sort of SUP-kayak conversion option, it's a nifty feature.
We do like the built-in action camera mount at the front of the board, which eliminates the need to glue on an after-market mount.
At 15 feet, we didn’t expect a particularly nimble board and it can definitely feel sluggish, especially if you’re paddling solo. Paddling with a dog or non-paddling child can exacerbate this as you might not be able to stand in the optimal position for paddling. Plus there's the extra dead weight. Still, this board is for touring and cruising and it moves well for the size and feels rigid enough.
Adding a second paddling person can really change the dynamic and makes this board cruise. However, like two people paddling a canoe or kayak, it takes time to get a rhythm. Once you do, the double output can be refreshingly effective compared to solo paddling where you’re constantly switching sides and effectively steering while propelling.
The Cruise Carbon also comes fully kitted out, so there aren’t many additional accessory purchases you’re going to need to make outside of this kit.
The board has a three-fin setup that helps with maneuverability. We tried it with just the larger center fin and found turning much less effective.
It’s important to note that there are limits to the board’s tandem capacities. The stated weight limit is 353 pounds, so two large adults might be pushing it. With two lighter female testers and an adult dog on the board together, it appeared to be near the weight limit and sinking a bit. Weight limits are there for a reason and the board is definitely at its best below that limit. So keep that in mind when considering who might try to use the board together.
We aren’t skilled or adventurous enough to have tested the Carbon Cruise in whitewater—or any kind of other rough water—but we paddled on some windy days and found it to be a very stable platform even when conditions weren’t glassy. Another tester took a crack at some yoga routines on the water and felt like the long, wide board was perfect for the task.
The MSRP of $1,499 is high for a paddleboard and may give sticker shock to folks who are seeing price tags closer to $500 or less for smaller boards from cheaper brands. Keep in mind, however, that if you’re considering a tandem board, it is likely replacing a purchase of two smaller, separate boards which could easily add up to this price tag.
The Cruise Carbon also comes fully kitted out, so there aren’t many additional accessory purchases you’re going to need to make. Many cheaper boards skip out on including a paddle, pump, and carrying case, so their lower price can be deceiving.
This probably isn’t the right board for beginners who aren’t sure if they’ll like stand-up paddleboarding, but if you’ve landed on a larger or tandem board and know you’ll appreciate the durability and performance of the Cruise Carbon, it’s likely worth the higher price.
On paper, there’s very little these two boards have in common. Despite being a mass-produced “big box” store model, the HydroForce White Cap is a decent board for infrequent users and it’s a fraction of the price (around $250).
Like the Cruise Carbon, it has the add-a-seat to kayak option. At 10-feet long, it’s nowhere near the size and isn’t a realistic tandem option. But for the price, you could get two of the Bestway models for a third of the price of the Cruise Carbon if budget is a top concern.
For a larger tandem inflatable, it’s hard to beat the stiffness and performance of the Cruise Carbon for the price. Just be sure you’re okay with the compromises you’ll make in transporting and performance versus smaller boards.
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